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וחי אחיך עמך

And let your brother live with you. (25:36)

The Talmud (Bava Metzia 62a) discusses the halachah of a hypothetical case in which two men are stranded in the wilderness with one serving of life-sustaining water between them. What do they do? If both drink – both die; if one drinks, he will survive, but his friend will not. Ben Peturah derives from the words, V’chai achicha imach; “Better they should both perish than one should see his friend die, while he survives. (Your brother shall live with you.) This was the accepted opinion until Rabbi Akiva came and taught, “And your brother shall live with you” – indicating…

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כי ימוך אחיך ומכר מאחזתו... ואיש כי לא יהיה לא גאל והשיגה ידו ומצא כדי גאלתו

If your brother becomes impoverished and sells part of his ancestral inheritance… if a man will have no redeemer, but his means suffice and he acquires enough for his redemption. (25:25,26)

An ancestral field should not be sold. It is supposed to remain within the family. If it must be sold in order to generate badly needed funds, it may be sold only for the number of crops it will yield until Yovel, the upcoming Jubilee year, when it reverts back to its original owner. If the owner does not have the necessary funds to redeem his field before the Jubilee year, the responsibility falls on his relatives to help him out. If he has no “redeemer,” relative, to assist in extricating him from his bind, the field remains with the…

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או אז יכנע לבבם הערל

Then at last shall their obstructed heart be subdued. (26:41)

Parashas Bechukosai contains within it the first Tochacha, Rebuke/curses, whose purpose is to teach mussar, ethical direction, reproof, in order to inspire them to wake up and repent. This is alluded to by the above pasuk: the rebuke/curses will liberate them from the fetters of the yetzer hora, evil inclination. Additionally, rebuke is a good thing – in that it assures us that Hashem cares. Horav Yisrael Belsky, zl, explains that a child who misbehaves knows that he is in for a punishment when his parents become aware of his misdeed. What if they ignore it, ignore him? This implies…

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ונתתי גשמיכם בעתם ונתנה הארץ יבולה ועץ השדה יתן פריו

Then I will provide your rains in their time and the land will give its produce and the tree of the field will give its fruit. (26:4)

“Rains in their time” means the time most convenient for people – such as Friday nights when people are generally at home or close by. When we get “wet,” it is for a reason. Hashem defrays anything that might prove to be a nuisance from inconveniencing us. The Midrash, however, adds that, at times, an entire community or even a city might have rain in the merit of one person who needs the benefit it provides. Chazal go so far as to posit that, at times, Hashem may send rain for the benefit of one field, even one blade of…

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שש שנים תזרע שדך... ובשנה השביעית שבת שבתון יהיה לארץ

For six years you may sow your field… But the seventh year shall be a complete rest for the land. (25:3,4)

The mitzvah of Shemittah teaches us that Hashem rules the universe. He is the only force in the universe, not the laws of nature. By allowing his field to remain untended and unguarded, the Jew declares to the world that life is not about material bounty. When Hashem says, “Stop,” we halt our work, our production – whether it is Erev Shabbos or Shemittah. We ascribe to a Higher Power, and we believe with complete faith that Hashem will provide for our needs. During the Shemittah year, all of the produce of that year is hefker, free for all to…

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וידבר ד' אל משה בהר סיני לאמר

And Hashem spoke to Moshe on Har Sinai saying. (25:1)

Hashem spoke to Moshe Rabbeinu on Har Sinai concerning the laws of Shemittah, the Sabbatical/seventh year. Rashi asks: Why Shemittah? How is Shemittah linked to Sinai? He explains that the Torah is teaching us that just like Shemittah is detailed with rules and fine points, likewise, this applies to all mitzvos; their rules and details were taught to them at that time as well. The laws of Shemittah were not repeated again prior to the Jews’ entrance into the Land. As such, everything took place at Sinai, with Shemittah serving as the exemplar, prototype, for all other mitzvos. Is this…

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וכי ימוך אחיך ומטה ידו עמך והחזקת בו

If your brother becomes impoverished and his means falter on your proximity, you shall strengthen him. (25:35)

Strengthening a Jew who is confronted with economic challenges is a practical mitzvah. After all, if we ignore our brother’s plight, what good is our personal frumkeit, religious observance? A Jew whose observance is predicated upon his relationship with Hashem, while he simultaneously ignores the challenges that his brother must confront, is deluding himself. We are all one family. One cannot expect his brother to derive satisfaction from one son, when that very same son ignores the adversity suffered by his own brother. There is yet a deeper understanding of the mitzvah of supporting a fellow Jew who has come…

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וזרעתם את השנה השמינית

And you shall plant during the eighth year. (25:22)

Shemittah observance tests one’s spiritual devotion, as well as his emotional stability. It is difficult to observe the farmers around you planting and harvesting (either they are non-observant, or they rely on various dispensations), while your field lays fallow. It is hard to subsist on contributions from others who understand, respect and admire your commitment. One who is patient, who rises to the Shemittah challenge, who perseveres despite the taunting of others, however, will be blessed with extraordinary siyata diShmaya, Divine assistance. Not only will he not lose out as a result of his commitment to Shemittah, it will also…

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ושבתם איש אל אחזתו ואיש אל משפחתו תשבו

Each of you shall return to his ancestral heritage, and each of you shall return to his family. (25:10)

Freedom is a precious commodity of which not all people are availed. Thus, when one who had heretofore been a slave to a master, one whose life was essentially not his own, the first thing to enter his mind, the first thing for which he would yearn, would be: freedom; return to his family; his home; his original lifestyle. Yet, the Torah teaches us otherwise: “Each of you shall return to his ancestral heritage.” Does property precede family? Does material sustenance come before freedom? Horav Zalman Sorotzkin, zl, explains this from a practical point. People often lose their freedom as…

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והעברת שופר תרועה... ביום הכפורים תעבירו שופר בכל ארצכם... וקראתם דרור בארץ

You shall sound a broken blast on the Shofar… on Yom Kippur you shall sound the Shofar throughout the land… and you shall proclaim freedom throughout the land. (25:9,10)

The mitzvah of sounding the Shofar on Yom Kippur of the Yovel – fiftieth year – is unlike the mitzvah of sounding the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah. The Sefer HaChinuch explains that on Rosh Hashanah, the purpose of the Shofar is to help us focus on the Akeidas Yitzchak, Binding of Yitzchak Avinu, thus encouraging us to think of his extraordinary ahavas Hashem, love for the Almighty. We, too, should learn from his example and thus imbue ourselves with love for Hashem, thereby increasing our merits on this day when all of Hashem’s creations are judged. On Yom Kippur of…

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